The Mariners are looking better for next year with strong, young, new guys settling into their roles, but it would definitely help to add in some quality veterans to create a balance. There are certainly some spots that could use an upgrade, and there are some good looking free agents on the market this year as well as some big players on the trade block.
GM Jack Zduriencik and the Mariners have money to spend since the young guys filling a lot of starting spots come cheap. However, they don't have as many trade assets for the same reason.
Whether it's through a trade or a pick-up, it's likely that Jack Z will take some level of action this offseason to beef up the starting lineup.
Jose Reyes' four-year contract with the New York Mets expires at the end of the 2011 season. He's just coming off a .334 season with 177 hits, including 16 triples, through just 124 games (as of Sept. 27) after having been injured for a significant part of the year.
Since this has been one of his best seasons, Reyes will be looking for a lot of money, but like I said, the Mariners have money to spend, and the Mets currently have MLB's seventh-highest payroll (and that's with Reyes on six million a year). The Mariners definitely won't be the only ones looking to acquire Reyes this offseason, but I can see Jack Z putting a lot on the table.
Where would Reyes fit in? Currently the Mariners have Brendan Ryan starting at shortstop. He isn't a bad option, but he doesn't add much. As for where Reyes would hit, Tim Keeney suggests that he might replace Ichiro as leadoff, which is unlikely, but possible due to Ichiro's 2011 slump.
Bottom line, it would be very cool to see Jose Reyes in a Mariners uniform in 2012.
Wouldn't it be nice to have RAUUUUUUUUL back in the lineup? He'll be 40 next year, which would make him an outlier in Seattle (other than the aging Ichiro), but the Mariners wouldn't bring him in as a long-term solution.
Bringing a player in just to try to extract a few final years of solid baseball from him would, in a way, go against Jack Z's philosophy, but the Mariners have really struggled to find continuity in left field this year. Raul would be an above-average player with a great power upside to give the younger guys some more time to develop in the minors and guest appearances.
Raul would probably move into LF and a middle-of-the-order spot since he's a proven hitter.
Ramirez is heading into a $16-million team option for 2012 with a contingent for a two-million dollar buyout. He's put up solid numbers this year, so the team may be interested in keeping him, but that's a lot of money for a team that might not contend.
Again, if Ramirez did suggest the Mariners as an option, he'd have a high asking price, especially since he's already expressed interest in going to the Florida Marlins. Ramirez would be a great player to have in the coming years since he's still relatively young and in his prime, but he'd also help provide the balance I mentioned earlier.
Ramirez would probably hold down the hot corner, but he could just hit at DH since he isn't known for his glove, and the M's have Kyle Seager and Alex Liddi also competing for the 3B spot. In the batting order, Ramirez would fit in the top-middle since he has the ability to hit for both power and contact.
Carlos Quentin is going into his last year of arbitration with the Chicago White Sox, which is looking to be a pretty good time to trade him. The Sox won't be contending very soon, so it's unlikely Quentin would agree to a longer contract with them.
This year (again, as of Sept. 27), Quentin has hit .254/.340/.499, which are slightly-above-average numbers for him. Quentin is a guy who the Mariners could hang on to for a little while since he's shown consistency and is still relatively young.
Like Raul Ibanez, Quentin would probably take up LF (where he's spent some time) and the four or five spot in the batting order. Most of these "fixes" have been players who can hit it hard since that's been a huge struggle for the M's over the past few years. Maybe a little less so since August, but it's a problem that needs to be addressed nonetheless.
The Mariners dealt two of their starters at the trade deadline this year (Doug Fister and Erik Bedard), leaving them with two disputed spots. The other three, Felix Hernandez, Michael Pineda and Jason Vargas should all return next year and claim the top three spots in the rotation, but none of the other hopefuls have made a particularly convincing case for the fourth or fifth spot.
SP Danny Hultzen, the Mariners' first-round draft pick from this year, apparently has a decent shot at taking one of those spots, according to Jack Z, but if he isn't ready for the majors (which would be disappointing since we drafted him for his Major League readiness), we're still left with two open spots.
Other candidates include Anthony Vasquez, Charlie Furbush and Blake Beaven, but they've all had pretty horrid campaigns over the past two months.
With at least one starting spot still up in the air, it would be great to lock down Mark Buehrle. The Chicago White Sox haven't made any moves yet to resign Buehrle, but he says he wants to pitch for a few more years. He's been pretty consistent over the past ten years, and this year was no exception.
Buehrle would be a solid option for the next couple of years, while James Paxton and Taijuan Walker (the M's super-hyped pitching prospects) prepare for their Major League debuts.